This year, members of the Area Presidency, together with Area Seventy, have met separately with each stake and district presidency to understand their goals and plans for 2019. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to understand the vision of each presidency and to feel of the love that these great leaders have for the members of their districts and stakes.
One of the important discussion topics during these meetings was ministering. While we learned of many excellent examples of personal ministering occurring across the Area, we found that there are still some misconceptions and uncertainties about how to successfully implement true ministering.
From the ministering.lds.org website, we learn, “Ministering is learning of and attending to others’ needs. It is doing the Lord’s work. When we minister, we are representing Jesus Christ and acting as His agents to watch over, lift, and strengthen those around us.”
To aid understanding, in some of the leadership meetings I attended with stake presidents, we had the following conversation: We asked the stake presidency, clerks and executive secretaries to think about less active member families or individuals from their home ward that they know on a personal basis. We asked them to think about people that they had worked with in a previous calling. We said it could be a neighbor or a family friend, it could be someone that had been one of their church leaders or it could be a recent convert that has lost his or her way.
We then asked them to consider if they could have just one ministering assignment, which of these families or individuals could they help and bless the most? Who would be the most likely to respond positively? And who, if we truly ministered to them, did they think could come back and once again enjoy the blessings of participating in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
We then asked each person to share who they had felt impressed to minister to. In every case, every leader had felt an impression about someone. In many cases, they said that they had been concerned about these families or individuals for some time and that they had wanted to minister to them. In some cases, they said that they had assigned others to minister, but as they now thought about the family or individual, they felt the importance of personally ministering to them.
When we asked the leaders how they felt about these individuals and families, in every case they said that they loved them and expressed how much they wanted to help them. They all felt that ministering to these families would be a blessing to themselves, their ministering companions and to the families.
We then asked, “How could this be applied in your stake or district? Could you have this same conversation with members of the stake council? Could you have the same conversation with elders quorum presidencies and relief society presidencies? Could an elders quorum president or relief society president have this conversation with their members?
Think about what would happen in our wards and branches if our initial ministering assignments were made based on the desires of leaders and members to bless others. Assignments by elders quorum and relief society leaders could be made after counselling with their brothers and sisters and then consulting with bishops. Companions could be assigned that would be blessed by the experience.
As President Nelson taught the Church about ministering in a higher and holier way, he quoted these powerful scriptures: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”1 In that spirit, Jesus also taught, “Ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people.”2
It is my firm testimony that as we follow the invitation of a Prophet of God to minister in a higher and holier way; that as we pray and seek guidance and then act on the promptings; as we show Christlike love to those that we minister to and seek to find ways to bless them and rekindle their faith, that they will naturally want to return and be with us. The joy that we will feel as our friends, loved ones and neighbors return is the same as that described in the scripture, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days…and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father.”3
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “Brothers and sisters, we have a heaven-sent opportunity as an entire Church to demonstrate ‘pure religion … undefiled before God’—‘to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light’ and to ‘comfort those that stand in need of comfort,’ to minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad—in short, all of us, every one of us, because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear the firm declaration of faith.”4
Caption: Elder Peter F. Meurs
1 See Matthew 22:37, 39
2 See 3 Nephi 13:25
3 See Doctrine and Covenants 18:15
4 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be With and Strengthen Them,” General Conference, April 2018.